Content Type: Gaming Reviews
Date: April 12, 2018
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is an adventurous murder mystery visual novel available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4 and Vita. The Danganronpa series originated on PSP with Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc on November 25th 2010 in Japan before being localised into English for release on Vita in February 2014, while the sequel Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair released on PSP in Japan on July 26th 2012 followed by an English localised port for Vita in September 2014. Danganronpa 1 and 2 were combined together with new features released under a new title of Danganronpa 1.2 Reload on PS4 in March 2017, although a Vita version was released exclusively in Japan in October 2013. A spin-off titled Danganronpa: Another Episode – Ultra Despair Girls released in Japan on Vita in September 2014 before receiving English localisation in September 2015 and PS4 in June 2017, while a free PlayStation VR experience titled Cyber Danganronpa VR: The Class Trial released as a launch day exclusive in Japan followed by English localisation in March 2017. Elsewhere, outside of videogames; Danganronpa also has numerous manga comic books and multiple anime TV series including Danganronpa: The Animation and Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School which itself comprised of a Future Arc, Despair Arc and Hope Arc, alongside anime and videogame soundtrack albums. Can Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony deliver the best gameplay experience and narrative within the Danganronpa franchise?
The story revolves around the kidnapping of young people that are brought to a school where they must piece the puzzle together as to not only who they are but why they are there and how they can escape; if they want to do so after learning the purpose of their surroundings. However, not everyone’s motivations are necessarily what they appear to be as you investigate the students who lie and kill.
Danganronpa V3’s story spans a prologue followed by six chapters and an epilogue. Class trials are essentially a major gameplay element as they form the finale of each chapter in which students use evidence gathered during the investigation to debate the identity of the culprit within that chapter. The debate plays out in a courtroom comprising of multiple phases and mini-games; resulting in the culprit being on the receiving end of the school’s own brand of punishment. Debate phases and mini-games include lying to gain the opposite reaction of a truth bullet, while selecting the relevant letters to correctly spell the answer to a question, alongside an argument armament that is a one vs. one debate against an irritated opponent; a debate scrum which happens when students participating in a class trial are undecided on one specific accurate opinion; mind mine contains block matching gameplay as two or more blocks of the same colour can be matched together to clear them from the board in order to gradually reveal the answer to a question; psyche taxi tasks the player to drive through a lonely road, collecting words and phrases to spell out questions relating to a particular case followed by finding the correct answer; and mass panic debates in which students are shouting over each other as the player attempts to find inconsistencies with the students’ statements.
The story is experienced from the perspective of Kaede Akamatsu and Shuichi Saihara who meet each other early into the prologue. A form of XP and levelling up sees Kaede progressively gain XP when getting to know another character through talking about who they are and what they remember which results in obtaining a friendship fragment upon reaching a new level. A report card is gradually updated as you learn more about each of the 16 characters including their respective names, height, weight, chest measurement, blood type, date of birth, likes, dislikes and notes such as their individual ultimate skill. Enemy design is quite varied as a group of half a dozen talking, walking stuffed animals that resemble teddy bears referred to as the Monokubs including Monodam, Monosuke, Monotaro, Monokid and Monophanie are lead by their returning father who is also the headmaster of the school named Monokuma that have imprisoned students to remain within the school; however in an interesting twist, almost every student is a potential antagonist during investigations.
Environments are explored from a first-person perspective as Kaeda walks or runs around a school named the Ultimate Academy for Gifted Juveniles which features numerous varied areas such as classrooms, a gym, overgrown hallways full of plants, a warehouse, student dorm rooms, a courtroom for hosting debates and much more besides. Meanwhile, subtle details remind the player that their character is imprisoned within the confines of the school such as barbed wire wrapped around what would have otherwise been easy exit points including breaking a window.
There are a variety of unlockable extras that are unlocked by spending the in-game currency of monocoins that can be earned by interacting with specific objects such as classroom tables and chairs. Extras include the chance to rewatch hundreds of event gallery scenes, dozens of movies in the movie gallery, listen to dozens of songs previously heard in the background music during gameplay and much more besides.
There is some free downloadable content including a HQ Audio Pack to improve the audio quality of the character voices on Vita and a French Text Language Pack to add an option of choosing French text on Vita. Meanwhile, there are also numerous character avatars for PS4 and PS3 for between 39p to 79p each or £7.99 to £11.99 for avatar bundles on PS4.
Danganronpa V3’s Vita port is pretty good, especially when considering the PS4 release is 26GB, while Vita’s physical media for retail releases only has a capacity of 4GB. However, that does mean there has been a fair few compromises during optimisation such as a reduction in lighting, shadows, texture detail and audio quality, alongside the natural optimisation of PS4 native resolution to Vita native resolution. It is advised that if you want to play the Vita version that you do so on the Vita and not on PlayStation TV as the PlayStation TV version shines a much greater spotlight on the compromises in Vita optimisation, while playing it on a 5 inch Vita screen provides a much better level of quality, while downloading the high quality audio pack solves the issue of the significantly compressed audio of the character voices in comparison to the audio quality of the PS4 release.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the control scheme consisting of pressing X to talk to a character or search the surrounding environments; pressing square to open handbook menu; pressing O to exit a menu; pressing triangle to change minimap; holding L1 or O to run while moving; pressing R1 to interact with objects; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to explore the environments; changing the direction of the right analogue stick or alternatively pressing up, down, left or right on the d-pad to pan the camera around the environments to view objects or environments from a different angle; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. Tapping the touch pad displays a full transcript of conversations between Kaeda and characters that she meets, while vibration occurs to accent a character feeling an impact such as falling to the ground or pinching themselves. There is no light bar support which could have produced varying colours based upon the mood of the character you are interacting with at that moment.
Graphically, Danganronpa V3 produces a stylised visual novel with subtle details in lighting, shadows, reflections and textures in and around character models and environments. Meanwhile, PS4 Pro support reportedly offers 1800p resolution.
Danganronpa V3’s presentation is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, chapter selection menus, options menus and various gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. Menu backgrounds focus on the Team Danganronpa building as clouds speed by in an abstract green sky.
Danganronpa V3’s characters are superbly voiced by a talented cast of voice-over artists in both Japanese and English which can be switched between within the options menu of the main menu, but not during gameplay. Sayaka Kanda voices Kaede Akamatsu having previously portrayed Mukuro Ikusaba and Junko Enoshima in the Danganronpa 1, 2 and 3 stage plays, while Shuichi Saihara is voiced by Megumi Hayashibara having previously voiced a multitude of characters in over 700 episodes of Pokémon. Kôichi Yamadera voices each of the five Monokubs having previously voiced Birusu and Beerus in over 100 episodes of Dragon Ball Super, while Monokuma is voiced by Tarako who has previously performed as Monokuma in Danganronpa inspired stage plays, alongside a vast array of incredibly talented voice-over artists and performers. Sound effects include interacting with objects and moving through environments, alongside ambience. Danganronpa V3’s soundtrack is composed by the returning Masafumi Takada who has previously composed for Danganronpa 1, 2 and Another Episode, alongside No More Heroes 1 and 2, Vanquish and The Evil Within.
The trophy list includes 41 trophies with 26 bronze trophies, 10 silver trophies, 4 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the Ultimate Cold Open bronze trophy for completing the prologue; the Just According to Ronpa bronze trophy for refuting an argument; and the From a Certain Point of View bronze trophy for presenting false evidence. Harder trophies include the You Need to Diversify Yo Bonds gold trophy for achieving the highest level bond with everyone; the You’ll Never Know If You Don’t Go gold trophy for taking every alternate route in a nonstop debate; the Monokuma Wrangler gold trophy for finding every hidden monokuma; and the That’s All, Folks gold trophy for obtaining every ultimate card. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 20 to 30 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are three difficulty levels between logic and action that forms the two major gameplay elements including kind – safe and sound, normal and mean – beginners beware with the major differences being that a higher logic difficulty provides an increased amount of solutions to choose from when faced with a logic puzzle, while a higher action difficulty makes action oriented mini-games more frantic as more happens on screen simultaneously.
As is the case for every previous Danganronpa game on PSP, Vita and PS4; there is no local multiplayer, online multiplayer or online leaderboards. However, Japanese iOS and Android spin-off titled Danganronpa: Unlimited Battle featuring gameplay reminiscent to that of a hybrid action take on billiards; therefore proving that Danganronpa could utilise multiplayer efficiently. Local and online multiplayer could have seen one player control Kaede Akamatsu or Shuichi Saihara as the second player controls the other of the two characters in co-operative multiplayer with both players investigating everything together. Meanwhile, local and online competitive multiplayer could have seen the second player control a villain that attempts to guide the player controlling Kaede Akamatsu or Shuichi Saihara to incorrect conclusions during investigations. Elsewhere, online leaderboards could have displayed how long it took each player to conclude every individual investigation with the correct conclusion.
Danganronpa V3’s replayability stems from anyone being a potential antagonist which places far more emphasis on having to succeed in as mini-games as possible in order to gain the correct answers towards choosing the right person during your investigation, alongside three difficulty levels for a varying degree of challenge during logic and action gameplay and much more besides that will have any Danganronpa fan returning for quite some time.
- Title: Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
- Developer: Spike Chunsoft
- Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software/NIS America
- System: PS4/Vita
- Format: PS4 Blu-Ray Disc/PSN Download
- Cross-Buy: No
- Cross-Play: Yes (PS4-Vita Cross-Save)
- Players: 1
- Hard Drive Space Required: 26.43GB (Version 1.02)